Police shut down hardware shops as destructive hurricane bears down on Tonga

Tāpuni ha ongo fale koloa fakatau koloa langa 'e ua 'i Tonga 'e he kau Polisi ko e ava Sāpate 'ikai ma'u ha ngofua mei he kau Polisi. Ko e fale 'eni 'o e Pacific Timber mo e Hardware and Building Supplies 'i he Hala Uelingatoni 'i Nuku'alofa. Taimi tatau 'oku kei hu'u pe ki Tonga 'a e saikolone katekolia tolu ko ia ko Gita pea 'oku pehē 'e he Vakai Matangi 'a Tonga ko e maumau lahi te ne fai 'o ka a'u ki Tonga 'a hengihengi.

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Tropical Cyclone Threat Track Map. Severe Tropical Cyclone GITA Category 3 Tropical Cyclone Warning Number 24 issued 0721 UTC Sunday 11 February 2018

Police shut down a hardware supplier in Nuku’alofa today as residents braced for a very destructive cyclone Gita.

Another hardware supplier opened, but was closed down after warning from Police.

Pacific Timber and Hardware (PTH) shop was forced to close down this afternoon (Sunday February 11) after it opened for the public.

The company was told they should not open without a permit from the Minister of Police.

The Hardware and Building Supplies provider at Wellington road was opened, but closed down after it owner Robert Blake talked to authority.

Tonga’s Sunday Trading ban can only be lifted if a state of emergency is declared, something the government has not done.

PTH opened to the public after it was contacted by people who said they wanted building materials to help them in their preparation for the cyclone.

The company opened today after it made a number of communications with some government authorities and before Police made the move.

“We requested this morning to the Commissioner and Minister of Police via intermediaries (as he is traveling) seeking an emergency permit,” John Paul Chapman of PTH told Kaniva News.

“Unfortunately the Commissioner won’t consider our request as authority lies with the Minister who is overseas at present. We are attempting to talk with the Acting Minister.”

As Kaniva News reported earlier today, PTH and HBS announced they would open today.

Chapman reported on Facebook PTH would open from 2– 6pm to allow the public an opportunity to prepare for Cyclone Gita with emergency supplies.

“We thought 2pm would be plenty of time to consider its application as it is an emergency for a potential Category Four cyclone coming,” Chapman said.

HBS hardware and building supplies planned to open for emergency supplies only from 3pm – 6pm today, Blake told Kaniva News this afternoon.

He has not been contacted by Police.

“I spoke to the minister – his advice was that he was currently at a meeting and would decide how to handle the emergency, but the police didn’t stop us,” Blake said.

He later said his business had opened  with no problems before he  called the minister for confirmation.

After he was told that emergency processes had not yet been issued by the government, he closed his store.

Chapman said it was likely his shop would open earlier than normal opening hours on Monday.

“Our store will likely close at 12 tomorrow as we must also be considerate employers and give our own employees time to go prep at their homes tomorrow,” he said.

He said Sunday afternoon would have given people time to obtain supplies and prepare for the cyclone.

“Unfortunately the process of the application hasn’t worked out for us,” he said.

Bad weather, Monday morning traffic meant it would be a rush for people to get things done tomorrow.

He confirmed PTH had opened, but was closed down within the hour by the authorities.

“We have had discussions with the Commissioner about that and been advised under no circumstances are we to open without a permit authorised by the Minister,” he said.

Very destructive hurricane warning

The powerful Category Three cyclone is expected to hit Vava’u, Ha’apai, Tongatapu and ‘Eua tomorrow morning.

Tongan Met Service said in its update at 5pm this evening a hurricane warning remains in force for Tongatapu and ‘Eua.

A gale warning is in force for the Ha’apai group.

A strong wind warning is in force for Vava’u and the  Niuas.

A damaging swell warning is in force for Tongatapu,’ Eua, Ha’apai and Vava’u.

A heavy rain and flash warning is now in force for Ha’apai, Tongatapu and ‘Eua.

The Met office said the islands would experience very destructive hurricane force winds.

Meanwhile, Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) advised that “it is always important to stay prepared and not just at the last minute, when a cyclone warning is issued.”

“Every family should have an emergency kit packed in their homes.

“Everyone should be mindful of what might cause damage within their homes such as large trees that can potentially damage a house. Please ensure that you and your family are safe during cyclone season.”

The main points

  • Police shut down a hardware supplier in Nuku’alofa today as residents braced for a very destructive cyclone Gita.
  • Pacific Timber and Hardware (PTH) shop was forced to close down this afternoon after it opened for the public.
  • The powerful category 3 cyclone is expected to hit Vava’u, Ha’apai, Tongatapu and ‘Eua tomorrow morning.
  • Tongan Met Service said in its update at 5pm this evening a hurricane warning remains in force for Tongatapu and ‘Eua.

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